Four California men have filed a class-action lawsuit against Harley-Davidson. They claim that the Twin Cam 88 and Twin Cam 96 motors run excessively hot, and they have suffered injuries including burns as a result. One of the men, Matt Weyuker, claims the bike set his pants on fire. Matt says Harley has told him there are several things he can do, including installing an oil cooler. Matt argues he shouldn’t have to pay for these changes; Harley should be doing these things to the bikes before they leave the factory. He claims selling the bikes without these cooling modifications is a design flaw. His lawyer, Bill Kershaw, says they think Harley doesn’t want to change the configuration and look of the bike.
I hardly know where to begin. The first clue to Matt’s cluelessness is in his statement, “Harley has always been on the cutting edge of technology, they can figure it out and make it work.” I’ve seen plenty of Harley advertisements hawking style, tradition, image and even attitude. I can’t recall an official Harley spokesman ever claiming they were on the cutting edge of technology. If they have, it’s a pretty good bet it was in reference to the V-rod, a bike using a different engine designed in collaboration with Porsche that is water cooled.
What Harley sells is a 1920s era style of air-cooled, push rod, over head valve, 45 degree V-twin engine that looks like is was chopped out of a WWI era biplane. Far from keeping this a secret, Harley goes to great pains to reach potential new customers with its style, image and tradition. Harley advertises its motorcycles to be exactly what they are. Exactly what Matt bought.
If Matt wants a American motorcycle with an oil cooler, then he should have bought from a plant in Spirit Lake, Iowa. They sell the Victory brand of motorcycles. These are all V-twin bikes with oil coolers. They also have other engineering differences such as overhead cams, dual valves and a 60-degree cylinder separation (EDIT – As pointed out in a comment below, the Freedom Engine actually uses a 50 degree cylinder separation.) that reduces noise and vibration. As a result of these differences they run cooler and quieter, but they don’t look or sound like Harleys. There’s no potato/potato from the pipes, the additional 15 degrees of cylinder separation is more noticeable than you might expect and, finally, that big old radiator -looking oil cooler blocking the front tire’s view of the engine.
I have no sympathy for Matt or the others who may jump into this. These folks had a choice about what to buy and, despite their claims, nobody mislead them. Most of the people who buy Harleys are buying and paying for the Harley experience. That experience includes those hot, noisy, vibration- prone, twin cam engines. If Matt didn’t want that, he should have bought something different.
－ Guy Wheatley